Roger Federer

Enjoy some pictures of Djokovic, Murray and Federer practicing in Toronto this week (photo credit: Marianne)

Novak Djokovic

Novak Djokovic survived a second round scare versus the unpredictable Gael Monfils, winning 6-2 6-7(4) 7-6(2) in two hours and 41 minutes. But he was easily dispatched 6-2 6-2 by Jo-Wilfried Tsonga the next day.

Novak Djokovic

Novak Djokovic

Novak Djokovic

Andy Murray and Amélie Mauresmo

Tsonga followed his big win over Djokovic with a hard fought 3-sets victory over Andy Murray, who has confirmed his “long-term” plan to continue to work with his French coach Amélie Mauresmo.

“We’ve agreed to work together and I think from both sides we’re willing to do what it takes to make it work long-term”

Andy Murray

Andy Murray

Andy Murray and Amélie Mauresmo

Andy Murray and Amélie Mauresmo

Roger Federer and Stefan Edberg

Roger Federer and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga will battle for the Rogers Cup title later today.

Below a few pictures of one of Federer and his coach Stefan Edberg hitting session:

Roger Federer and Stefan Edberg

Roger Federer and Stefan Edberg

Roger Federer

Roger Federer

Stefan Edberg

Stefan Edberg

Edberg was officially elected into the Rogers Cup Hall of Fame on Monday. Here are some pictures of the press conference, you can also watch the entire video of the ceremony on STE fans website

Stefan Edberg

Stefan Edberg

Stefan Edberg

Cincinnati Open

Peg is covering the Western & Southern Open for Tennis Buzz. Enjoy her Friday evening recap (more to come!):

At the end of the stage presentation, the guests were directed to head outside toward the food court, where they could purchase drinks and listen to the SunBurners:

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At the champagne stand, customers who purchase a serving of Moet Imperial in a souvenir glass ($18) also receive a shiny tennis ball with a charm inside:

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There were other attractions beside the concert and the booze, though. Right outside the Grandstand tent, there was one of those human statues…

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….who later made his way closer to the beer:

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Other fans visited Grandstand — meandering around, sitting where they liked, and watching the children on the court:

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There were souvenirs for sale at the MidwestSports.com tent:

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I eventually headed toward Court 7…

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having seen this announcement:

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But wait. I know that player. That isn’t Mr. Falla, that’s Mr. Gulbis!

Ernests Gulbis

Ernests Gulbis

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On the other side of the court, Mr. Thiem:

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There were fans watching alone …

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… and with friends:

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(I owe these women thanks — not only did they help me identify Dominic Thiem, they were just great fun to chat with. You know you’re among kindred spirits when you’re reminiscing about tan lines from wicked hot tournaments [e.g., a couple of them attended Melbourne in January; I watched Isner-Anderson in Atlanta a few summers ago ]

And my evening in Mason ended with a last look at some of the 10,000 flowers planted by LaMond Design within the last week:

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The campus beautiful

Jack Sock

Peg is covering the Western & Southern Open for Tennis Buzz. Enjoy her draw party’s recap (more to come!):

At the W&S Open, most of the drawing takes place behind the scenes. The women’s qualifying draw was already available in handout form by the time I reached the media center (around 4:30 pm); according to one source, the men’s qualifying draw was to take place at 9 p.m., but not as a event open to the public. The placement of unseeded players in the main draw is office-work as well; Denis Istomin reportedly helped with this year’s ATP lottery.

In short, the drawing during the big fête concerns only the top 16 players on each tour. And no, they don’t pull the word “bye” out of the cup for the top 8; it’s names that get drawn out of the cup, and the subsequent announcement by Pete Holtermann (the media center manager) is something like “Maria Sharapova will play either Alize Cornet or Madison Keys.” There are subgroups within the seeds as well — I failed to note the specific breakdown, but the upshot is that not all 16 names are in the cup all at once. (For example, if I’m remembering right, Azarenka, Cibulkova, Ivanovic, and Wozniacki — nos. 9 through 12 — were one of the subgroups; it was pointed out that there were three former #1s in that quartet.)

Before the microphones are switched on, though, there are the buffets and the bars. The party is a ticketed event that takes place in a huge white tent with a trellis (covered in wisteria, I think) at its entrance:

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Inside, there was a table advertising the Princess Diana exhibit at the Cincinnati Museum Center (one of the tournament sponsors), three buffet lines (with offerings such as potatoes spiked with truffle oil and goat cheese), and a wall lined with Coke fridges and cash bars. Over a thousand guests were expected — at 5:15 p.m., the room wasn’t yet full…

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… but it certainly would be by the time Andrew Krasny, the emcee, took the stage.

During his opening remarks, Krasny rejoiced in it being his fifth year at the tournament, adding a crack about how some members of the audience had wanted him fired: “You know who you are.” Unhappily, over the course of the evening, I too developed a ferocious dislike for his schtick, which contained far too much fake-flirting and innuendo for my taste. I get that he was trying to be friendly and funny, but there are so many ways to achieve that (especially when everyone present has an obvious, common interest in tennis) without incessantly drawing attention to the girls’ and women’s ages and attractiveness. (An example: him saying to one woman, “You are adorable. Are you religious? Because you are the answer to my prayers.” Another example: him explaining at length that he refrains from asking women how old they are if they look to him like they might be over twenty, so a woman he mistook for an adolescent should take it as a compliment.)

Some people were laughing, and many people probably thought nothing of it (for that matter, many people were simply not listening — there was a steady stream of chatter throughout the whole presentation, with the mics loud enough to be heard over the socializing), but odds are I wasn’t the only person who found the quips at best lame and at worst borderline creepy. I gather that Krasny is a nice guy and a genuine tennis fan, so I’d like to think he can do better.

Also, in all fairness, I do have some idea of how hard it is to wing through on-stage banter with unknown quantities — as in game-shows, some audience members naturally exude enthusiasm and personality, and others don’t give the host any energy to feed off of. (To behold an example of the perfect stranger-from-the-audience, please see the photo sequence at the end of this entry.)

When it was finally time to draw names out of the cup, audience members wanting to appear onstage (with the promise of having their pictures taken with the guest player) were asked to raise their hands. Two tournament volunteers — Mason and Hannah, if I heard the names right — walked through the crowd, with sheets of paper to be handed to the would-be participants who looked the most interesting to them. Variety appeared to be one of the criteria — there was a good cross-section of ages among those selected, and at least three ethnicities in the mix.

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(If you’d like to see snapshots of some of the other participants, I’ve posted them in an album of additional photos from the party.)

The sheets of paper served as cue cards for Krasny — the participant wrote their name on it and where they were from.

This man, for instance, is a native of Iran and a resident of Cincinnati. I wonder what he said to Simona Halep, who was the WTA guest star:

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(These photos are fuzzier than the others because I brain cramped and pointed my camera at the projection screen rather than the people on stage at that point.)

There was plenty of people-watching to be enjoyed, including Simona’s stint as draw party guest of honor:

Simona Halep

Simona Halep

And the happiness displayed by a fan named Marietta was so infectious that Jack Sock greeted her with arms open wide:

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Jack Sock

Jack Sock

Cincinatti

Peg is covering the Western & Southern Open for Tennis Buzz. Enjoy her first Cincy report (more to come!):

The tournament often referred to as the Cincinnati Open (and which was founded in 1899 with that title) actually takes place twenty miles north of the city that shares its moniker, in a town called Mason. Because Ohio is generally considered part of the US midwest, I tend to think of its distance from Tennessee (where I live) as a long haul. It’s been pointed out to me, however, that Cincy is not significantly further away than Memphis or Atlanta or Lexington (KY), and is in fact closer than Winston-Salem or Charleston and other tennis tournaments I consider relatively “local” to me because they happen to be hosted in other southeastern states.

Objectively speaking, the drive from Nashville to Cincy generally takes about four or five hours depending on traffic (there is always congestion around Cincy, in my experience), rest stops, and the like. Having been asked to write about the city as well as the tournament, I decided to visit the Over-the-Rhine district for lunch. I knew of at least two connections it had to the W&S tournament: the renowned Rookwood Pottery studio creates the champions’ trophies, and the announcement of this year’s player field was held at Ensemble Theatre.

I admit that I picked Bouchard’s Anything’s Pastable partly because of the name (“Any connection to the tennis player?” “No. We get asked that a lot”)…

Over the Rhine

… but mostly because of its location (inside Findlay Market) and the rave reviews it had received on Yelp. $8 covered a big Cuban panini (made fresh), which came with a salad (and an extra napkin, which I appreciated) and a 23 oz. can of Arnold’s lemonade-tea:

Over the Rhine

Bouchard’s (which also answers to “Brocato’s Italian Market”) has a reputation among locals as a place to pick up dinner fixings…

some of the pasta at Bouchard's

Over the Rhine

Over the Rhine

… and it’s right across the aisle from Gibbs’ Cheese, which had a jaw-dropping display of fudge:

Over the Rhine

I wish I’d had time to linger among the vendors. I could smell handmade soap and I walked past watermelon waiting to be tasted:

Over the Rhine

Findlay market is a mix of run-down and well-kept — as is the surrounding area. It is unquestionably urban, and I could feel my guard (developed during years in Chicago and Detroit) kick into a higher gear as soon as I spotted some of the sketchier-looking individuals in the crowd. But I also saw a matriarch in a Duck Dynasty t-shirt leading her brood into one of the buildings, an activist hawking a progressive newspaper, and assorted other types shopping, shooting the breeze, and so forth. Some of the furnishings and buildings are worn from use, but there’s also a crew of workers who, among other things, tend to the towering floral arrangements on the perimeter:

Over the Rhine

The parking rate in the market lot: free for the first hour, and fifty cents for each hour after that.

1209 Jackson Street is about four minutes away by car; the meters on that block are free for the first ten minutes, and some of them expressly allow bikes to be locked to them:

Over the Rhine

It’s the location of the Rookwood Pottery Company Store. There are some beautiful items (e.g., coasters, bud vases, cards) that can be acquired for less than $20 — a pleasant surprise to me! — and there are also items priced into the thousands.

Over the Rhine

I hope to explore more of Over-the-Rhine some other day — my peek at it has only whetted my appetite. The afternoon was getting on, though — I had a draw party to get to — and there just wasn’t time to do more than look up at and around a few of the nearby buildings:

Over the Rhine

Boris Becker, Wimbledon 1985

From Love Thirty, three decades of champions – published in 1990

Becker, like Edberg has been around for a long time but is still young. It was not until 1989 that each emerged as a player obviously capable of winning major championships on any surface: to be explicit, on the extremes of grass and clay. In 1989 either could have become the first serve-and-volley specialist to win the French title for more than 20 years. Neither will be content with what he has already achieved, impressive though that is. Their form during the next few years will depend partly on fitness (each has had problems, largely arising from the physical stress the ‘big’ game imposes) and partly on their hunger for success. Ambition is not a constant condition of the human spirit. The flow of even the strongest river is subject to variations of rainfall on the watershed.

So far, Becker’s record has been the more spectacular and has also had wider repercussions? Like Bjorn Borg in Sweden and Guillermo Vilas in Argentina, he became a national hero whose example fired his compatriots and caused an enomous expansion in tennis interest: among players, public, court and equipment manufacturers, sponsors, and a variety of entrepreneurs.
Becker’s triumphs, swiftly followed by those of Steffi Graf, were almost as exciting for television viewers in East Germany, where tennis has been an undeveloped minor sport. Given Becker, Graf and the game’s restoration to Olympic status in 1988, we may assume that what is at present East Germany will be a productive area of growth for tennis in the 1990s.

Becker’s influence has also been considerable – and benefical – in a more senitive area. Germany needed a heroic figure commanding world-wide respect and he took on that role as if born to it. His first Wimbledon championship came 40 years after the end of the Second World War and 45 years after a German bomb had fallen on to a corner of the competitors’ centre court seating area. There was a spice of irony in the fact that Becker’s tennis on that same court dominated television, radio, and newspapers and magazines in his homeland. For most of us the War was only an older genreation’s vague, receding memory, a faint shadow in the mind. But to the German-speaking peoples it remainded a slightly touchy subject. Young though he was, Becker was aware of that: and aware, too that the new Germany needed a paragon? He responded as if all his 17 years had been spent in the diplomatic service. On court, he was an immensely Teutonic sportsman: fair-haired and blue-eyed, big and strong and a fighter to the core. Off court, he was all charm and tact and low-keyed common sense, recognizing the ‘Blond Bomber’ and ‘Blitzkrieg’ headlines as no more than facile metaphors. In short, Becker made Wimbledon history and at the same time did an impressive public relations job for Germany.

Becker’s home is a little more than six miles from Graf’s. They have known each other since childhood, when they often used to hit together and, later, played in the same tournaments. By the age of 12 he was an unusually promising footballer but gave up that game in favor of tennis. At 15 he was West Germany’s junior champion and, in the first round of the boys singles at Wimbledon, was beaten by Edberg – the top seed, who was almost two years older. At 16 Becker left school to play full-time. His potential had been recognized by the national federation’s coach, Gunther Bosch.
Since their childhood at Brasov, which lies at the foot of the transylvanian Alps, Bosch had been associated with Ion Tiriac, an uncommonly smat man with an intimidating presence. Tiriac played Davis Cup tennis for Romania from 1959 to 1977, by which time he knew everybody an all the angles. As coach, then as manager and entrepreneur, he was – and remains – a cute businessman. Tiriac went to Leimen, guaranted Becker’s parents a fat income, and took charge of the lad’s career. Bosch became Becker’s personal coach.

Thus was Becker under new management, so to speak, from 1984 onwards. In April of that year he qualified for Luxembourg’s first grand prix tournament, which was additionally memorable for the fact that there was a dog show in progress and players shared a hotel with thoroughbreds – sometimes audibly restive during the night. On court, Becker’s ferocious hitting raised images of Ivan Lendl. He had two match points against Gene Mayer. Becker qualified for Wimbledon, too, but tore some ankle ligaments when hotly engaged with Bill Scanlon and was carried away on a stretcher. By the end of that year he was already 6ft 2in tall and weighed 12st 8lb (he has since put on about half an inch and half as stone). Just the build, in fact, to take on Wimbledon and the world. Tiriac and Bosch were doing what they could to improve his quickness and agility.

Just before the 1985 Wimbledon, Becker won the Stella Artois tournament at Queen’s Club, suggesting that he could be a future Wimbledon champion. The future was now. Becker beat Hank Pfister in Wimbledon’s first round and observed that he was looking forward to ‘not being a nobody’. Joakim Nystrom and Tim Mayotte in turn took him to five sets and almost beat him. Then Becker got lucky. He did not have to play any of the top three seeds, because Kevin Curen tore through John McEnroe and Jimmy Connors in straight sets and Henri Leconte‘s fireworks display reduced Ivan Lendl to dazzled helplessness. By the time the final came round, Curren, who had already done enough to win most Wimbledons, did not have quite enough left. By contrast Becker was still strong, still dreaming the dreams of the young. He was having the time of his life and let us know about it: by joyously punching the air with his fists and giving his celebrated impression of a man cycling down a cobbled street without a bicycle. He was not only the first German champion, the youngest champion, and the first unseeded champion: he was also four months younger than the winner of the boys’ singles, Leonardo Lavalle. Moreover, Becker did it again in 1986, this time with more ease. His last two victims were Leconte and Lendl. Again, neither McEnroe nor Connors crossed his path.

Becker has often said that, as a tennis player, he was born at Wimbledon, that he feels at home there. The tournament changed his life and made him a celebrated millionaire. True, he had to shoulder a championship’s increased responsabilities to the game and did not always welcome the attention he attracted, the erosion of his privacy. ‘But it’s worth paying the price’, he admitted. It has often been suggested that Wimbledon is the easiest Grand Slam tournament for a man to win, because grass permits violently short rallies that make only limited demands on a player’s experience and tactical versatility. On the other hand a Wimbledon championship is the most coveted prize in the game and carries enormous prestige. It follows that, to some extent, Becker achieved too much too soon. He was like a man standing on the top of the Everest and realizing that he had yet to learn the craft of mountaineering.

Becker learned but it took him three years to win another Grand Slam title. Let us remember that, although twice Wimbledon champion, he was only 18 years old – still growing up in the midst of sudden fame and fortune.
In January of 1987, during the Australian championships, Becker’s natural need for more independance – moe time to go his own way, enjoy the company of his girlfriend, and find out what it was like to live an approximation of a normal life – led to a split with Bosch, who was unwilling to accept the part-time role Becker now demanded of him. But Tiriac was always there and Becker could easily pick him out, beneath clouds of cigarette smoke. And by the end of 1987 Franck Dick, a British athletics coach, was making Becker a better all-round athlete and Bob Brett, an Australian coach from the Harry Hopman school, was beginning to make Becker a better tennis player. gradually, Becker came to terms with manhood – and with the kind of tennis played on surfaces far more prevalent than grass. The Davis Cup competition helped, because Becker knew that he was playing for a team, a nation, and simply had to produce the goods – whatever the surface. And he did produce the goods.

The 1988 Davis Cup triumph was followed by a year in which it all came together. On the slow clay of Paris, Becker was narrowly frustrated but proved that he was ready to pass that most difficult of all tests for any player from the serve-and-volley school. And the Becker who regained the Wimbledon championship was a far more mature player than the the Becker of 1985 and 1986. He made a little more history too. In the first set of the final Edberg was taken by storm and scored only 10 points. It was the first 6-0 set in a men’s singles final for 40 years. Moreover, Steffi Graf won the women’s title the same day. Never before had Germands won both singles championships at Wimbledon – and Becker and Graf were to repeat the feat in the United States championships two months later, though Becker had saved two match points (one with the fortuitous intervention of a net cord) in a second round match with Derrick Rostagno.
It was the first time a German had won the US men’s title. Becker is unning out of firsts but will keep coming back for more: especially if his knees and ankles and the soles of his feet are spared an excess of the pounding they get on courts that are both hot and hard.

Becker is a commanding figure and an awfully powerful player. There is a hint of arrogance in the chin-up, icy glare he gives his opponents in the moments between rallies. Off the same toss, he can win any of three sevices: flat, kick, or slice. His forehand is equally fearsome. Becker flings his racket at the ball as if he never expects to see either again. Often, no volley is needed. A similar blazing speed can be evident when he puts top-spin on his backhand, which he usually hits with underspin. His volleys, whether punched or caressed, are like the cursory last spadefuls of soil on the graves of rallies. The pattern of his assault is varied, but the persistent strength of becker’s hitting keeps his opponents under terrible stress. On top of all that there is the bounding athleticism: the huge leaps for overheads, the spectacular falls as he hurls himself into wide volleys, and the quick ease (remarkable in such a big man) with which he moves in behind his service or an early-ball approach shot. And his unquenchable fighting spirit permeates the court like some electric curent.
At the age of 22 Becker began 1990 as the best player in the world.

Grigor Dimitrov and Stan Wawrinka

Thanks to Marianne, enjoy these pictures of Dimitrov and Wawrinka practising at Queen’s together last week:

Dimitrov

Dimitrov

Dimitrov

Wawrinka

Wawrinka

Dimitrov

Wawrinka

Wawrinka

Dimitrov

Dimitrov

Dimitrov

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